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Director, Enablers of Agricultural Transformation

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Seattle, Washington, US
Closing date
Sep 19, 2023

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Consultancy/Private Sector
Conservation science
Climate Change
Salary Type
Employment Type
Full time
The Foundation

We are the largest nonprofit fighting poverty, disease, and inequity around the world. Founded on a simple premise: people everywhere, regardless of identity or circumstances, should have the chance to live healthy, productive lives. We believe our employees should reflect the rich diversity of the global populations we aim to serve. We provide an exceptional benefits package to employees and their families which include comprehensive medical, dental, and vision coverage with no premiums, generous paid time off, paid family leave, foundation-paid retirement contribution, regional holidays, and opportunities to engage in several employee communities. As a workplace, we're committed to creating an environment for you to thrive both personally and professionally.

The Team
As part of the Global Growth & Opportunity (GGO) Division, the goal of Agricultural Development is to support farmers and governments in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia that are seeking a sustainable, inclusive agricultural transformation that creates economic opportunity, respects limits on natural resources, and prioritizes access to affordable, nutritious diets. The division's growth in strategy includes a $1.4 billion funding commitment to climate adaptation, making Agricultural Development the largest PST in the entire foundation.
We believe that smallholder farmer productivity is an engine of economic mobility out of poverty, and we invest in technologies that support outcomes for smallholder farmers while prioritizing sustainable approaches in light of a changing climate. Smallholder farmers' crops and livestock are often far less productive than those in other developing regions, and they frequently lack access to market opportunities that can support investments in better inputs, tools, and farming practices. Moreover, climate change is steadily adding new challenges.
The foundation supports inclusive agricultural development with three main areas of investment:
- Tools and technologies that target the specific needs of farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
- Innovative support structures for smallholder food producers that provide new options for sustainably earning a reliable income.
- Public and private sector efforts to develop more effective systems for delivering products and services to smallholder farmers.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has exclusively retained and will collaborate with Spencer Stuart in the search for a stellar candidate to take up this exciting and challenging appointment. To share any nominations or expressions of interest, please send an email with any supporting materials to our confidential email address:

The Director, Enablers of Agricultural Transformation leads the work in the Agricultural Development ('AgDev') strategy to achieve strategy outcomes goals of: delivering safe, affordable nutritious food; empowering women and girls with economic opportunities through agricultural transformation; and, improving the capacity of agriculture system actors to prioritize, finance, and implement climate adaptation solutions. As such, this role oversees important portfolios in nutritious food systems, gender integration, women's empowerment, and adaptive systems, while also working collaboratively across the AgDev team's other bodies of work and with those team members to ensure key social and environmental enablers of sustainable and inclusive agricultural transformation are appropriately incorporated into other areas of the AgDev strategy. The Director will also be accountable to ensure AgDev's gender and nutrition work is connected to the Gender Equality (GE) Division and GGO Nutrition Teams, and its climate work is connected with the broader GGO teams and new climate efforts. The Director will be a key voice for the foundation's work in climate and as such, the Director will work closely with the climate community to both influence and shape its areas of focus while integrating other voices (particularly from the Global South) into the foundation's work and priorities., this Director will be one of the key leaders of the foundation's broader AgDev leadership team.

The Director's three key portfolios include:
  • AgDev's newest portfolio in adaptive systems, which partners strategically with national and regional entities to address three key areas: access to and use of relevant and timely agricultural climate risk information, increased private sector finance for and engagement in agricultural adaptation, and participation of LIC national and regional actors in adaptation research, planning, and negotiations;
  • Our efforts in women's empowerment in agriculture, to help close systematic gender gaps in productivity and access to services, markets, and entrepreneurial opportunities, with responsibility for the efforts to mainstream a gender focus into all of the foundation's agricultural investment initiatives, and to strategically fill data gaps to inform government policies and priorities that target the needs of women in agriculture; and,
  • The foundation's work to understand and structure sustainable and resilient food systems that produce nutritious crops and livestock products that generate positive returns for smallholder farmers in a manner that supports their resilience and mobility out of poverty, while incorporating a holistic approach that supports many different actors-including farmers, processors, traders, food companies, and retailers, and develop policies and practices that more efficiently connect farmers to markets.

The Director's responsibilities include leading and managing a high performing team of experts across the diverse portfolios, while driving performance to meet the foundation's strategic goals through direct investments as well as the use of the foundation's voice and influence in the broader development community. The Director will provide leadership amongst the global agriculture development community, working at the highest levels with the private sector, multilateral donors, governments and international and local regulators to drive systems-level change.

As a leader in the foundation, the Director ensures that the team and the work represent the values of BMGF, including our commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion. The Director is responsible for a team of professionals managing large and matrixed portfolios across a range of countries. The Director will maintain a rigorous measurement system designed to maximize impact while exercising strong stewardship of resources.


Adaptive Systems:
  • Drive continued recognition and prioritization of climate adaptation as part of the global dialogue.
  • Attract additional funding to the climate adaptation in agriculture space, with a keen focus on capital markets.
  • Build a comprehensive community of Global South voices and champions for climate and agriculture, with a focus on adaptation, particularly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Develop an understanding of the economics of climate adaptation and where the world should focus for highest-impact investments.

Women's Empowerment:
  • Ensure a gender lens informs work across the Agricultural Development portfolio, particularly with respect to product design and delivery.
  • Build policy infrastructures and product frameworks that will enable communities that are differentially disadvantaged in agriculture.

  • Identify the primary issues in soil health and nutrition, in a changing climate context, that impact nutrition density.
  • Develop a strong economic understanding of the barriers to greater diet diversity and the policies and investments required to lower its cost.
  • Integrate across the maternal, newborn, and child health and large-scale food fortification portfolios at the foundation to develop a holistic nutrition policy framework to advance.

The Director, Enablers of Agricultural Transformation will be a results-oriented, strategic thinker who is motivated to address the broad dimensions of poverty and inequality in the developing world, particularly through building the resilience of smallholder farmers south of the equator. The Director will be an advocate for systemic change and for the poorest members of society, with a keen focus on developing the highest-impact solutions for these communities.


Executive leadership and management experience

Experience in roles of increasing executive responsibility. Track record of building high-performing multi-national teams with international success in public or private organizations.

Agricultural development and climate change expertise

Knowledge of issues and trends in agriculture and climate change, with a clear vision and understanding of the role that science and policy can play in improving the productivity, income, nutrition, empowerment, and resilience of smallholder farmers. Preferably, deep understanding of crop-livestock farming systems and how they are being affected by climate change outside of the US, particularly in Africa and other emerging markets. Ideally, experience embedding social development strategies in development design and implementation, especially for nutrition and women's empowerment outcomes.

Operating experience and networks in the Global South

Has led development and preferably, implementation of large-scale, multi-stakeholder, climate-adaptive agricultural development programs and projects, resulting in a broad global network and familiarity with relevant private and public national, regional, and global institutions. Significant experience living and working in the Global South strongly preferred.

External representation experience and networks

Experience leveraging persuasive communication skills and strong executive presence to represent an organization and build partnerships with colleagues across sectors. Strong existing networks with relevant stakeholders, particularly in the climate arena.

Educational credentials

An advanced degree or equivalent work experience relevant to agriculture, such as agricultural and/or climate economics, rural development, nutrition, gender in agriculture or a closely related field.


  • Ability to bring together team members with diverse backgrounds, approaches and beliefs to pursue a coherent, integrated vision of change.
  • Strong influence management skills including the capacity to engage global leaders from the private and public sectors, building support at the highest levels for this work.
  • Exceptional communication skills including the ability to develop and deliver a compelling narrative that will inspire other actors to engage in driving meaningful change.
  • A collaborative leader who will form productive partnerships within the foundation and with its subsidiaries and external partners.

Operational Excellence
  • Ability to lead and motivate a team with high technical acumen with the kind of agility that allows them the freedom to be creative in devising strategies.
  • Ability to drive complex implementation projects to scale.
  • Ability to make priority decisions, adjust to new information, overcome barriers, develop workable solutions, keep stakeholders engaged and on task, and deliver results.
  • Strong judgment and negotiation skills.

Intellectual Heft
  • A systems-thinker with a broad ranging, integrative intellect that can easily move between the conceptual level and the applied; able to position the role of Agriculture Development in the development transformation in developing countries. In doing so, able to debate the big levers the foundation should and could use for systemic behavior change and impact.
  • Ability to think about the nature of "public goods" that drive large scale behavior change and the role philanthropy can and should play in their creation.
  • Values rigor; is data-driven and analytical with the capacity to apply that approach to goal-setting, large scale project management, and impact measurement.

§ Strong written and verbal communication skills

§ Ability to travel internationally

§ Strong networks in the climate-adaptive agricultural development communities

§ On-the-ground experience in the developing world

§ Ability to subsume one's ego in the service of the greater good

Hiring Requirements

As part of our standard hiring process for new employees, employment will be contingent upon successful completion of a background check.

Candidate Accommodations

If you require assistance due to a disability in the application or recruitment process, please submit a request here.

Inclusion Statement

We are dedicated to the belief that all lives have equal value. We strive for a global and cultural workplace that supports ever greater diversity, equity, and inclusion - of voices, ideas, and approaches - and we support this diversity through all our employment practices.

All applicants and employees who are drawn to serve our mission will enjoy equality of opportunity and fair treatment without regard to race, color, age, religion, pregnancy, sex, sexual orientation, disability, gender identity, gender expression, national origin, genetic information, veteran status, marital status, and prior protected activity.
  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Type: Full time

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